Kansas lawmaker quits posts after remarks about blacks

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A white Kansas lawmaker who suggested at a public forum that blacks were predisposed to abusing drugs resigned from two legislative committee leadership jobs on Tuesday but did not give up his seat in the Legislature.

Republican Rep. Steve Alford, from the western Kansas town of Ulysses, faced calls on social media to leave office altogether from critics who saw his remarks as racist. And a black House member said Alford should resign from the Legislature.

Alford stepped down as chairman of the House Children and Seniors Committee and as vice chairman of a joint legislative task force on child welfare. He won’t keep a seat on either panel but will retain other committee assignments.

“We came to a mutual understanding,” House Speaker Ron Ryckman Jr., a Kansas City-area Republican, told reporters after meeting Tuesday with Alford. “His remarks were a disappointment and unfortunate.”

But Rep. Valdenia Winn, a black Kansas City, Kansas, Democrat, said Tuesday that Alford should leave the Legislature. She said giving up committee leadership jobs is “insignificant.”

“Until he resigns from the Legislature, there is no difference,” Winn said. “You owe that to your constituents and the state of Kansas.”

Alford declined to comment Tuesday after issuing a statement saying he was giving up the two jobs and attending the day’s House session.

During the public meeting Saturday in Garden City, Alford discussed his opposition to legalizing any use of marijuana and referenced a time in the 1930s when it was outlawed.

Kansas is one of the few remaining states that haven’t legalized some form of medical marijuana, including low-THC marijuana derivatives that can’t get a user high. But the legalization question has been percolating in Kansas in recent years.

The 75-year-old Alford said marijuana and other drugs were prohibited partly because blacks responded “the worst” to the drugs “because of their character makeup — their genetics and that.” None of the roughly 60 people in the crowd was black.

One NAACP leader later called Alford “an idiot” over the remarks. Rep. Willie Dove, a black Kansas City-area Republican, said Tuesday that he found Alford’s comments “unbelievable” and previously, “There were no signs he felt that way.”

Dove said Alford’s comments represented “a statement of total ignorance,” adding, “I think racism is total ignorance.”

The Garden City Telegram first reported on the statement Monday and posted a video of it to YouTube. Alford…

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